Most football coaches believe that their teams must prevail in two of the three most important segments of the game — offense, defense and special teams — in order to be successful.
At one time or another, Union College has excelled in all three departments, but they’ve consistently failed to get the job done in the fourth quarter, and it’s been their undoing in several games this season.
Union head coach John Audino is hoping for major improvements in the way his team executes in the final period when the Dutchmen host Worcester Polytechnic Institute in today’s Liberty League game at 1 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field.
Union (1-0, 1-3,) is coming off its first win of the season at Rochester a week ago, but the Dutchmen had to hold off the Yellowjackets, 41-34, on the final series after building a huge lead in the third quarter. Union’s defense and special teams were suspect in the final 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, WPI is 0-1 in the league and 2-2 overall.
“Obviously, our two biggest areas of concern are our kickoff coverage and our defense,” said Audino. “Our kickoff coverage has been inconsistent, at best, and one of the reasons for that is that we have a new kicker this year. It’s taken a while for him to kick the ball in the right place to help out the coverage. Plus, on the one really big return that Rochester made against us last week, we missed six or seven tackles. We’ve been working on keeping everything in front of us on kickoffs all week in practice.”
The other Union soft spot — especially in the fourth quarter — has been its defense. The Dutchmen produce 411 total yards a game on offense, but they allow 401.2, including 252.5 passing yards per contest.
“Defensively, we’ve been banged up quite a bit up front. We’re finally starting to get some of those guys back,” said Audino. “I think our linebackers, like Steve Modliszewski and Noah Joseph, have been playing well. Our secondary is doing fairly well for about three quarters, but we’ve given up a lot of yards in the fourth quarter.
“But despite our non-conference record [0-3], I keep telling the guys that we’re in first place in the league now. Thank God that we are in the league. All we have to do is win one game at a time, and we still have a chance to win the league title.”
Union’s offense has been solid in every game, except for its 37-18 setback against Ithaca, when the Dutchmen turned the ball over five times.
Despite injuries to a pair of tailbacks — Dylan Schuck and Darnel Thomas — the Dutchmen have established a serious ground game to keep opposing defenses honest. That has helped set up a dangerous passing game led by quarterback Drew Connolly and wideout Justin Gallo. Last week, Connolly threw for a career-high 363 yards and three TDs. Gallo caught all three scoring strikes and hauled in 14 receptions for 237 yards. For the season, Connolly is 70-for-117 for 1,036 yards and eight scores, while Gallo has 29 receptions for 546 yards and six TDs.
Audino said he is not sure that Schuck, who tops the team in rushing with 186 yards despite missing last week’s game, will be ready to play this week, but he thinks Thomas will be back. Union also has T.J. Franzese, Rob Johnson and Tim Hersey to run the ball.
“I’m very pleased with the depth we have at tailback,” said Audino. “We have certainly turned that part of our game around.”
WPI, which is coming off a 34-31 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is paced by the running of Ernie Mello, who has 451 yards and seven touchdowns. The Engineers have split their QB duties between Pat McAuley (27-for-52,
189 yards, one TD) and Johny Antonopoulos (16-for-31, 186 yards, two TDs). Nick Bean has 15 receptions for 205 yards.
Today’s game will be “NCAA Take a Kid to the Game Day.” Children 12 and under will be admitted free with a paid adult admission.
NEC OPENER FOR DANES
University at Albany opens its Northeast Conference schedule with a trip to play Saint Francis, Pa., at DeGol Field in Loretto, Pa.
The 1-2 Great Danes are coming off a 44-21 win at Columbia last week. Tailback Andrew Smith ran for a career-high 155 yards and two scores, and he also threw a scoring pass.
UAlbany has won nine of the previous 12 games against the Red Flash.
Saint Francis (0-2, 1-3) returns 18 starters from last year’s team, including quarterback John Kelly, who has completed 45 of 101 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns.
RPI HOSTS ROCHESTER
The Engineers (0-1 Liberty League, 1-2 overall) try to even their record when they entertain Rochester (0-1, 1-2) at 1 p.m. at East Campus Stadium.
RPI is averaging 33 points, 182.2 yards rushing and 198 yards passing per game but has been outscored, 34-14, in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Mike Hermann has completed 54 of 91 passes for 594 yards and five touchdowns.
Rochester is led by quarterback Braezen Subick, who threw four TD passes and completed 21 of 35 passes for 310 yards against Union.
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Categories: College Sports